Ambisyllabicity, English, experimental approach, syllabification


The factors that influence English speakers to classify a consonant as ambisyllabic are explored in 581 bisyllabic words. The /b/ in habit, for example, was considered ambisyllabic when a participant chose hab as the first part of the word and bit as the second. Geminate spelling was found to interact with social variables; older participants and more educated speakers provided more ambisyllabic responses. The influence of word-level phonotactics on syllabification was also evident. A consonant such as the medial /d/ in standard is attested as the second consonant in the coda of many English words (e.g. lard), as well as in the single-consonant onset of many others; for this reason such consonants were often made ambisyllabic. This contrasts with the /n/ in standard, which is never the first consonant in a word-initial cluster (e.g. *ndorf) and, therefore, rarely made ambisyllabic in the experiment. Ambisyllabicity was also found more often when the vowel preceding the single medial-consonant was lax, or stressed, or when the medial-consonant was a sonorant rather than an obstruent. The idea that a stressed lax vowel in the first syllable conditions both the ambisyllabicity of the consonant and its geminate spelling is not supported.

Original Publication Citation

2014.“An experimental approach to ambisyllabicity in English.” (with David Eddington). Topics in Linguistics, vol 14. DOI: 10.2478/topling-2014-0010

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



De Gruyter Mouton







University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor

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